Lord West of Spithead has been using the term ‘Sea Lightning’ to refer to the F-35B Lightning for years now and each time he does, the Ministry of Defence reject it.

Lord West asked in a written question:

“To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is the minimum buy of Sea Lightning (F35B) aircraft to ensure the ability to deploy two carriers with the planned 35 jets on each carrier in a national emergency.”

Earl Howe, Minister of State, Ministry of Defence, replied:

“The Ministry of Defence does not recognise the term ‘Sea Lightning’, with ‘F-35B Lightning’ the designation jointly agreed by the First Sea Lord and the Chief of the Air Staff. Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015 stated our intent to buy 138 F-35 Lightning aircraft over the life of the programme.

The first tranche of 48 aircraft will be the F-35B; decisions on subsequent tranches of Lightning will be taken at the appropriate time. We are on track to generate two front-line squadrons of F-35B Lightnings by 2023.”

The Ministry of Defence recently confirmed that the UK designation for F-35, will be ‘Lightning’.



    • The UK has never had a policy of designating aircraft by numbers, but by assigning proper names. Thankfully though, the absurd epithet “Lightening” has beed avoided. The RAF has, sadly, begun to use US designations for a few niche types such as “RC-135W Rivet Joint”, presumably to pander to the stupidity of the press and public at large.

  1. What have the RAF done here? They are not the ones calling the aircraft by its incorrect designation.

    Certainly Lord West needs to grow up and stop with his petty quest but the RAF have nothing to do with it.

    • There is no war over F35B ownership, the RAF and RN have worked closely together to bring the type into service for the mutual benefit of both Services. The F35A is operated out of a common pool of aircraft and is available for multiple tasking including carrier strike. The Lightning force is a Purple operation and is by all accounts working very well.

      The only petty, pathetic and destructive noise has come from a small group of dark blue leaning armchair Admirals (along with some dark green leaning arm chair Generals) who incessantly whine over events that happened many years ago. The brutal truth is the FAA couldn’t operate without RAF support in the 1970’s let alone now and this tiresome turf war over assets by some is a waste of time.

      The senior staff of the RAF have stated that their current plans are for the F-35B is their favoured type and have no current plan to press for an order change. Some senior RAF officers along with a few light blue leaning arm chair Air Vice Marshall’s have muted the idea of an F-35A buy. Nevertheless it is not current policy albeit I see no reason why the concept should not at least be discussed.

      To be honest bringing up the matter is in itself petty and destructive.

      • Check out books by harrier pilots Sharkey Ward and Jerry Pook (written sometime after the Falklands war, after they had had a chance to calm down), plus all kinds of gun drawing ,helicopter kidnappings and general interservice madness between various factions amongst the land forces.

        • I generally have no interest in what the bearded Bulls41tter Sharkey Ward has to say, his book which I have read is pretty much “How I could have won the war single handled if not for the interference from Flag and the RAF”. His childish temper tantrum over his return flight to the UK did him no favours. He has burned many a bridge and insulted far better people within and without the service. The general view of him within the MOD was “Not someone to trust national secrets with”, his pet website the Phoenix Thinktank spends most of its time thinking up new and interesting ways to get the RAF disbanded.

          I like Jerry Pooks book it is a far more fair assessment of the situation during Corporate.

      • Evening
        Please expand with regards to what dark green generals you are referring to, I am well aware of the arguements of the late 70’s with regard light and dark blue deployment of air power – the RAF maps were amazing.

        On a separate note – many thanks for pointing me in the HMS Endurance report, I would recommend all to read it with regard to recent events in Norway

        • Ah the RAF map myth, FYI there is no evidence beyond an anecdote in one book by a person with an axe to grind that the RAF moved Australia or did any other shenanigans. Doesn’t stop people repeating it often.

          You want names in respect of the Generals?

          • (No offence to any other fans of the film, Dune, I think its a good film I haven”t read the book!)
            I think you have probably insulted every single serviceman and woman that took part in that “conflict”. You are a disgrace and should apologise. You have no right to call Sharkey Ward a bullshitter. The man is a hero and risked his life to defend a cause of freedom.
            He is worth a million of you irrespective of his qualifiied personal opinions.

          • Have you seen the alleged maps? If so please publish them for all the world to see. Of course you haven’t – you’ve just swallowed the old bull, which actually dates from the 1960s, not the 70s at all. You don’t even know your own BS!

      • Fedaykin the FAA needed RAF resources in the 1970s because politicians decided to run down fixed wing naval aviation so the RN didn’t recruit replacement aircrew. The fact is the FAA have shot down more aircraft since 1945 than the RAF but personally I hold both forces in equally high esteem.
        As for Sharkey Ward he has faced an enemy in combat when outnumbered in an untried aircraft and for that he is to me and many others a real British hero.

        • An air force and what it brings to the party when it comes to war is more than how many enemy aircraft it has shot down in a particular time frame. Anyway since WW2 RAF pilots have 19 confirmed combat kills vs 18 for FAA pilots, that the aircraft they flew belonged to other services and nations is a mere technicality.

          Just because Ward has seen combat doesn’t excuse his behaviour outside the cockpit, I have a rather dim view of the man regardless of his combat record.

          • Having read several books that cover in part the post war relationship between the RAF and RN I can better understand his attitude. There was a clear eminity on both sides. The 1960s carrier replacement was killed off by the RAF and some weak politicians so what environment do you think he encountered when he joined the FAA. We are all shaped by what we see and witness. Perhaps he has learnt unlike those very fair minded RN leaders in the 60s to fight the RAF and win you need to give as good as you get. Not right but totally understandable.

          • The FAA is an airforce, and long before the RAF was created. I suggest you widen your choice of reference books maybe as you are so blinkered Arthur Gould Lee’s “No parachute”.
            You have no qualification to insult the only living Ace in the UK services.
            If you are British which sadly I pretyy much know you are, you should be hanging your head in shame and apologising.

  2. Actually it’s an excellent example of the interests of the nation coming 2nd to the interests of the military hierarchy and military industrial complex.

  3. They can call it the F35 bacon butty if we get enough aircraft to run both carriers, although our cousins across the pond are coming out at ten aircraft for their carrier strike squadrons . Thirty bacon butties per ship will do me.

    • Something like the original order is going to be required, a few spare, maintainence, training, etc and the early one’s aren’t going to be much use.Everyone knows that these 2 carrier’s are not going to be able to operate a full jet complement at the same time. In fact with the rule of three and lack of reasorces, even operating both with one acting as a helicopter carrier is highly unlikely.

    • The RAF have to get their summer leave in. Nearly 5 weeks spent doing nothing. Not suprising that it will take so long.
      The name change was actually first suggested by the USMC for the F35b. West is merely voicing his own choice. The USMC will probably win. Current suggestions also include Sea Panther.
      As for certain members of this forum choosing to vent their bile at a living national hero: may I suggest you take a good look in the mirror first next time. Ward may have his eccentricities but he is a far better man then a great many whose freedom he has in a tiny way empowered. He has also had the guts to stand up in public using his real name to voice his opinions.

      • I don’t really know, there is some truth in what they say,but Jerry Pook was just as bitter with the RN as Sharkey with the RAF. The fact that people are having a go at him illustrates the point to some degree.This nonsense has got to stop, never mind the waste it causes in peace time, it gets people killed.

        • Ward might be an extremely brave man but that doesn’t exclude him from being guilty of uttering rubbish.
          His views are narrow-minded, subjective and it is entirely legitimate to criticize him.
          War heroes don’t automatically become 100% right. History is littered with decorated war heros who fail on the public state and sometimes, deservedly so.

          Both Ward and Lord West have an anti-RAF agenda, which is not only out-dated but also extremely inaccurate.

    • I guess if we got the C version Sea Lightning would be logical but otherwise with the actual aircraft being essentially the same whether used by the RAF or Navy it seems a purely anal concept to confuse the name that is about politics rather than logic and would effectively set a precedent as the Harrier and almost all previous aircraft were distinct even when the changes were relatively minor.*
      * I am assuming that there might be an odd exception will exist in a historical context but the rule is clear to my mind.

    • I’m a poor choice to judge names. I though “Boaty McBoatface” was a perfectly reasonable name for an RN vessel… 😀 (Cmon, give me a break -it’s FRIDAY!).


  4. Evening all
    It’s always interesting to see the energy generated when it comes to the name of things or the definition of a motto.

    Lord “flip flop” West likes to keep himself in the news, this being the latest in a series of interventions that offer little bit keep him above the news line (defined as someone the media go to for a £250 quote/appearance).

    Lightning is here to stay – as the B model, we are not in the A model game and besides, the role it would fulfill for the RAF is better suited to the C 🤫

    Busy week this week, whilst politicians have been grandstanding and preening lots of announcements from MoD land…..

    • Its the USMC who are driving the name change to help show the differences in airframes. Sea Panther/ Panther is one of the options. IMO suits it.
      The B is a lot different from the A and C
      West’s name somehow does not seem to fit…

      • Sea Panther? I give it no more than nanoseconds after that gets announced before jokes about wet kitties will abound … only they won’t be using the word kitties!

      • I feel to see the point in changing the name. We had Tornado F3 and GR1 which were different versions of the same plane but they were still both Tornado. Seems like a waste of time to me.

    • Sorry for the ignorance, but I’ve missed these MOD announcements in the scrum of Brexit and more US shootings , would you mind summarising?

  5. lets just have one service, call it the Marines AKA the US Marines – everything under one command structure – these comments/rivalaries re tiresome and part of the reason why £40 billion quid a year doesn’t go as far as it should

  6. I remember in 87 when the staff at Westlands were invited to vote on the range of names for the EH101. Sea queen, leopard, amongst a few others were the choice, as it was Merlin won the day. I always thought it was a nice touch to allow the work force to choose the name. Not intending to stir up issues as above, in the original specification for the f111 drafted by RAF stike command, they quoted figures for the range of the aircraft, amongst these figures Fremantle was 400 nm further west than fact. This is where the issue arises. At the same time Mountbatten was heavily promoting buccaneer instead of tsr2, no doubt with an equal bias involved. However that is all history.

  7. We have been told countless times that one carrier will be in service and one in reserve. There has never been a plan AFAIK to provide two carrier air wings, which would eat up almost all of the 138 aircraft to be ordered and leave none for RAF strike.

    Lord West is asking a ridiculous question ref manning two carriers, the budget is clearly not there for an additional Lightning wing and the RN couldn’t crew a second carrier anyway.

    The FAA is in line to eventually get 48 aircraft of its own to form two squadrons, each with 12 front-line aircraft. The remaining 90 will go to form 4 RAF squadrons, as a very belated, 10-year-late replacement for some of the Tornado GR4s now out of service.

    There is a case for increasing the allocation to the FAA from 48 to 60 and cutting the sqn establishment from 12 to 10. This would enable 3 Naval sqns, one afloat, one ashore and a third one to support 3 Cdo Bde or surge onboard in an emergency. West would do better to pursue this than carry on his Navy v Air Force blood feud.

    It would be better he did this sooner rather than later because, no matter what the Air Chiefs say now for political/industrial/work-share arrangements re BAe, the RAF’s preference is for the F-35A, as it’s lighter, faster, has a better rate of climb, a better thrust:weight ratio, a longer range, bigger payload – and, critically, costs 25% less than the B. We could see the B capped at 48 unless someone makes the case for a more generous provision for the FAA some time pretty soon.

    • Ideally the RAF needs a strike aircraft that can fly from Marham to Moscow without refueling. But the RAF has no funding for such as aircraft. The F-35A would not be able to reach Moscow without refueling mid air.
      There is also the issue of Uk airfields, incl. RAF Marham, highly likely be vulnerable to a Russian cruise missile strike, including non-nuclear. F-35A’s would be sitting ducks at Marham! Tornado’s procured in the Cold War where mainly forward deployed in Germany. The RAF no longer has airbase’s in Germany. Presently only a few Tornado’s are forward deployed in Cyprus on Op. Shader.
      F-35B’s remaining at Marham will use S/TOVL and to get airborne from damaged airfields. Similar to how Harrier GR’s deployed in Germany in Cold War.
      All we need now are V22 tankers to refuel the F-35B’s.


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